GENERAL ELECTIONS in Prince George’s County tend to be anticlimactic, given the county’s heavily Democratic registration that generally makes the primary the main event. School board races, which are nonpartisan, tend to be an exception to this rule, and this year’s are especially significant. Reform of public education in Prince George’s is at a critical stage, and the choices voters make Nov. 4 will determine whether County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) and schools chief Kevin M. Maxwell will have partners in — or impediments to — that effort.
The Board of Education already has undergone notable change, as a result of state legislation last year that gave the county executive more authority over education. The board was refashioned into a hybrid of elected and appointed officials, with Mr. Baker empowered to make some appointments and name the school district’s leadership. The highly regarded Mr. Maxwell was Mr. Baker’s choice, and the new board members have brought a refreshing perspective as well as much-needed academic expertise. Nonetheless, there has been lingering resistance from some members of the old board. With four of the 13 seats up for election, the contests offer an opportunity to increase the positive momentum.
Nowhere is the contrast between past and future starker than in District 2 (Greenbelt and College Park), where incumbent Peggy Higgins is being challenged by Lupi Grady, a member of Mr. Baker’s education commission who has been endorsed by the executive. Ms. Higgins was an implacable foe of allowing Mr. Baker meaningful participation in the schools, and she remains a hindrance to the efforts of the new leadership. Ms. Grady is a superior choice. Not only has she spent 20 years managing programs for at-risk youth but, with two children in the school system, she understands the strides the system has made and the distance still to be traveled. Her experience coming to the United States from El Salvador gives her keen insight into the needs of underrepresented students.
In the three other races, we reaffirm our primary endorsements of Dinora A. Hernandez (District 3), Carolyn M. Boston (District 6) and Sonya Williams (District 9). Ms. Hernandez, an attorney who serves as Mr. Baker’s Latino liaison, is a product of the school system with a rich understanding of the need to engage the community in schools. Ms. Boston, the board’s able vice chair, has made clear she won’t let petty concerns about board prerogatives get in the way of school improvement. Ms. Williams, appointed by Mr. Baker to fill the seat vacated when Donna Beck Hathaway resigned, has proved to have a keen grasp of fiscal issues, particularly capital budget needs.
Early voting starts Oct. 23.